Broadband Cable Association of Pennsylvania


March 20, 2014

It's a mystery worthy of an investigation by Lt. Columbo, the popular 1970s TV detective portrayed by Peter Falk: RCN cable has dropped the popular MeTV channel, provider of "Columbo," "MASH," "Twilight Zone," "Perry Mason" and other classic shows from its Lehigh Valley channel lineup.

No information on the disappearance of MeTV is provided on RCN's website. RCN spokeswoman Joanne Guerriero issued this statement in a recent voice mail: "We are aware of the situation with MeTV; we are looking into it. We do want the best outcome for our customers. When there is news or information that we can share, we certainly will share it with our customers. And that's all I'm able to discuss at this point regarding MeTV."

As of Tuesday, the Valley channel lineup on RCN's website continued to list MeTV as the content provider on Channel 25. The on-screen programming guide also listed MeTV as the provider, though the program description accurately cited WFMZ-TV's AccuWeather feed. The weather information, a repeat of the identical feed on RCN Channel 12, replaced MeTV programs on Channel 25 a few weeks ago. At some point between Tuesday and Wednesday, Channel 25 vanished. The change is related to a late-February switch in the provider of MeTV programming to the various cable and satellite-dish companies. "The MeTV Network is pleased to announce new affiliation agreements in New York and Philadelphia with the PMCM TV LLC Broadcast Group," a notice on the MeTV website states. It adds that KJWP Channel 2 is the new affiliate serving the Philadelphia television market, according to the site. The previous affiliate was WFMZ Channel 69 in Allentown.

The switch in contracts prompted RCN to switch off MeTV, according to recent exchanges on RCN's Facebook page between customers and first-name-only RCN personnel. "I want my MeTV back," wrote viewer KathyLee Holbrook-Lutsko of Coplay a few days ago. Noting that the weather feed already is on Channel 12, Holbrook-Lutsko continued, "I loved all the retro shows. If it's because of money, pay it. You already charge an arm and a leg for cable." RCN responded that it was "not our decision to lose that channel when WFMZ lost the rights to it," and offered to "submit a channel-request form on your behalf" to get MeTV back.

RCN competitors Service Electric, Blue Ridge, Comcast and Cablevision cable companies, Verizon FiOS, and satellite providers DISH TV and DirecTV, all made the decision to continue providing MeTV for Valley subscribers. MeTV spokeswoman Maura Cope referred questions to officials at KJWP, the new Valley provider. The disappearance of MeTV on RCN does stem from the affiliation change, but it's not about money, according to Lee Leddy, KJPW general manager. "It's not about money at all; it's all about dial position," Leddy said.

As it turns out, "dial position is a very big deal" in the TV world, he said, adding that KJWP worked with cable companies reluctant to carry MeTV at dial position 2, the default choice because that's KJWP's channel, to find mutually acceptable alternatives. "We wouldn't take [position] 805," he said, but reasonable options were accepted. For example, Service Electric moved MeTV to Channel 7. Leddy said agreements have been reached with all providers except RCN, but he's confident that situation will be worked out as well. "They were playing hardball, but that's over with, let's find common ground," he said Tuesday. "We hope to have something done this week. We're trying to negotiate something that works for RCN. It's nothing that can't be worked out."

MeTV is popular with Service Electric subscribers, General Manager Jack Capparell said. "We felt continuity of signal was in the best interest of our customer base," Capparell said. MeTV moved to dial position 7 on Feb. 23, and PCN network was shifted to 53, he said, adding that viewers were notified of the change. Leddy said his company has gotten hundreds of emails and calls from RCN subscribers wondering about the status of the popular MeTV. "We're going to be on RCN," it's just a matter of time, he said. If he's right, Lt. Columbo will return to the business of solving fictional mysteries for RCN subscribers. Allentown Morning Call

Broadband companies should be required to connect their networks to major content providers such as Netflix for free, Netflix Inc. CEO Reed Hastings said Thursday.

In a blog post published on the company's website, Mr. Hastings called for rules to that ensure big broadband providers like Comcast Corp. can't keep charging companies such as Netflix a fee to connect directly to their networks-a practice known as paid interconnection, or peering. In the post, Mr. Hastings publicly acknowledged that Netflix recently struck a paid peering deal with Comcast, which he said had improved service for Netflix subscribers with Comcast internet service. While both sides have characterized the payments as relatively small, it is the principle of paid peering that concerns Netflix in the long term. Mr. Hastings said such deals could open the door for Internet service providers (ISPs) to charge Netflix and other content providers escalating fees to reach consumers. "If this kind of leverage is effective against Netflix, which is pretty large, imagine the plight of smaller services today and in the future," Mr. Hastings said.

Mr. Hastings framed peering as crucial to the principle of net neutrality, which states that Internet service providers can't discriminate between two similar content providers. Earlier this year Verizon Communications Inc., convinced the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to throw out the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules, but FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has signaled he intends to issue new rules in the coming months. "Netflix believes strong net neutrality is critical, but in the near term we will in cases pay the toll to the powerful ISPs to protect our consumer experience," Mr. Hastings said. "Without strong net neutrality, big ISPs can demand potentially escalating fees for the interconnection required to deliver high quality service."

Netflix has urged the FCC to ensure that its new net neutrality rules cover peering. In addition, Netflix could push for the FCC to mandate free peering as a condition for approval of Comcast's $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable Inc. That deal would expand Comcast's footprint as the nation's leading broadband provider. A Netflix spokesman said no-fee interconnection is essential for an open, competitive Internet. "We hope the big ISPs embrace strong net neutrality on their own," he said. "To the extent companies don't do the right thing, government will have to consider stepping up its obligations to protect consumers."

In a statement, Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen said "the open Internet rules never were designed to deal with peering and Internet interconnection" and noted that "providers like Netflix have always paid for their interconnection to the Internet and have always had ample options to ensure that their customers receive an optimal performance through all ISPs."

Mr. Cohen said Comcast is happy that it was able to reach an "amicable, market-based" interconnection agreement with Netflix and believes the deal "demonstrates the effectiveness of the market as a mechanism to deal with these matters." Netflix's business model depends on spending a great deal on content and far less on its Internet traffic delivery. The company warned in a February regulatory filing that its operating results could suffer if ISPs don't agree to interconnect with their servers. Broadband providers, in turn, have blamed Netflix for routing its traffic inefficiently. Wall Street Journal

Comcast, Penn's Center City neighbor, is pioneering several corporate responsibility initiatives. Yesterday , David L. Cohen , Executive Vice President at Comcast and Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Penn, spoke at the Law School. Cohen, a Penn Law graduate, has had an extensive career in both politics and law. Law professor Jerry H. Goldfeder moderated the talk, which focused predominantly on Cohen's insight into politics and the communications industry.

Cohen wants to see more financial transparency in political campaigns, based on his experiences first as campaign manager and then as chief of staff for former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell during Rendell's Philadelphia mayorship. "Long-term solutions for the political system as a whole lie in the structure of elections," Cohen said. He pointed to the "corrosive impacts of super [political action committees]" on elections. "I won't give to a super PAC on a moral level ... and [not giving to super PACs] is a policy at Comcast, as well," Cohen said.

Cohen talked about the potential upcoming merger of Comcast with Time Warner Cable. The merger has received criticism - in particular, a petition against it by Senator Al Franken - for creating a monopoly. "He has no case," Cohen said. "Absolutely no competition exists between Comcast and Time Warner Cable." The merger has also been criticized for being a "gatekeeper against innovation on the internet," according to Cohen. But he maintains that Comcast has "no market incentive to throttle innovation, as broadband is our largest cash flow ." Cohen argued that the merger would also not hurt consumer prices. One point Cohen was particularly passionate about was the digital divide. "Broadband is the civil rights issue of the modern era," he said, echoing civil rights activist John Lewis. "The internet has the transformative potential to equalize access to health care, education, news and entertainment," Cohen said. "However, currently the Internet is exacerbating differences rather than leveling the playing field. We should all be embarrassed about that."

Comcast's Internet Essentials program is intended to close the digital divide. "Internet Essentials is the largest comprehensive broadband program for low-income [citizens]," Cohen said. The program attacks the three main causes of the digital divide - "absence of understanding of the internet, cost of equipment and cost of services." Those eligible are families with children who qualify for the National School Lunch Program - which, according to Cohen, is 80 percent of students in the Philadelphia area. Internet Essentials offers those families a lower rate for their Internet usage, subsidizes equipment and gives digital literacy classes. Ninety-four percent of Internet Essentials participants, about 1.6 million Americans , have seen academic improvement in their children. "We will do everything in our power to close this digital divide. If we don't take this issue on, then no other company will," Cohen added. Daily Pennsylvania (University of Pennsylvania)